tv Tavis Smiley WHUT July 6, 2012 8:00am-8:30am EDT
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight a conversation with eddie levert, out with his cd. next year there will celebrate their 50th anniversary with the release of a new cd. we're glad you've joined us. a conversation tonight with the great eddie levert coming up right now. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
tavis: always pleased to have eddie levert on this program. the legendary front man for the o'jays. he is out with his new solo project. the new disk is called "it it."d for m still have a song dedicated to his sons, "last man standing." and to see your 70-year-old self. >> and the thought of it. it drives me. i started off in this when i was
16 years old and now i am 70 years old. running around on stage shaking my booty with a silver shirt on. can you get to that? tavis: folk still love it. >> i do not understand what they want to see. tavis: they want to see you and you still got it. . still got it how have you protected your instrument all these years? there folks who have been doing this a lot fewer years than you and over the years you can hear the change in their voice and they cannot hit -- >> bimini note. tavis: some part of the register starts to fall out. >> i can tell you, i have to be real with you and let you know, i am no where the eddie levert
that i was at 18. there is a little receiving not only my hairline -- receding not only my hairline. tavis: your vocal cords. >> you have to treat your voice like is the precious instrument is. and you must get rest and you must treat it like it is god's give to you and cherish it and try to nurture and make it something that is very special. people make you who you are. i tell people all the time, by the time it comes out of my mouth and goes through the microphone, got has done a great transition. he has made it sound better than i could make it sound. tavis: does it feels like -- i
suspect it does come all the places you have been. does it feel like 50 years with the o'jays? >> my knees tell me it is 50 years. tavis: used to get down and i you cannot get back up. -- and you cannot get back up. >> a good 50. it is a good 50. it is not something i regret. it is like -- i do not know where it will go from here. it is like, i did not think 270. -- to seventy. i did not think past 70. i did not know what would happen back then but i do not know what will happen now. everyday is a new venture. every day is something new that i get a chance to go out there and see if i can still pull this
off and make them believe. tavis: if the time should ever come when you need to get off the stage, will you now or will they send the san man out to get you? -- sandman out to get you? >> you and tom. tas: as the stones are still going all these years later. >> this is what i do for living. i did not know when i will ever want to feel like i will quit. i just want to be worthy. i want to be able to make people understand that, ok, eddie is still good at what he does so we can now go and buy that ticket and i can feel like they bought it and they got their money's worth. tavis: what do you make of the fact that at least to my ear, as i listen to satellite radio and travel the country, i am always -- tickled is the right word, to
go by the number of all the stations that exist -- tickled by the number of the oldies stations that exist. as if the stuff today does not always measure up. so we play the old stuff, because the old stuff still sounds good but in the doing of that, i can hear the o'jays five or 10 times on the radio. >> absolutely. it is mainly because those songs and the words and the lyrics today, that they have in them are still relevant today. it can still apply them in your everyday. "back stabbers," "love train," "survival" and all that stuff. all that stuff is ever-present. for everyone who is living in this world so they can apply it
to every day. i have kids who come up to me know who are 13, 14, 15. this is what we used to clean the house to your music. this is what my mom had us doing our chores to your music. i need to take a picture with you so i can send it to my mom. so she will know that i met you. you do not know what this ans to me. and to make, that is the ultimate compliment that you can get that they have used your music to help them to get through life. tavis: why then, after all these years, finally the solo project and i love the title. "i still have it." modesty.t go nt no i am just busting your chops. i have had a chance to listen.
why the cell project and why this title at this point in your career? >> i have been working on this way before the passing of my sons. we had talked about doing a solo project and we were working on it and doing the father and son things were working on. ok. it's just finally got to the place where i started working on it while they were alive. and after they passed away it threw me for a loop. i had to take time to probably get back to their and after getting over that part of it, i had to figure out how i was going to write this. what was i going to say? how was i going to say this? that is why i came up with a song, "last man standing,"that is a song about me and tell my kids had to come to grips with who i was in the things that i did in my life and kids have a
tendency, they want to take their parents and say, ok, you cannot do this and you cannot do this. they never asked me, they never asked me what woman so why should i ask -- let you ask me what women i am going to be with? so, you know, i went through a lot of changes with my kids after get divorced and went through all of those kind of things, they wanted to tell me, you cannot do that. you are -- how can you do that, you are our father. it was very selfish of me. any time you went through a divorce, it is a selfish thing that people get into. all they are thinking about now is my happiness. it has nothing to do with whether the kids are going to be happy. with -- if the wholeamily is going to be a unit anymore. now just thinking about me suffer get everybody else.
-- about me and forget everyone else. you say ok, now i'm going to write these songs and i start writing the songs. "the last man standing" is about me and the transition to like myself. because of i already judge myself. i get to the place where i like myself, to get over it, that is about my children. they say the love me. i cannot tell because you say you love me and still you want to treat data like this -- he is a lowlife because you are not the data i thought you should be. that is in the book. whoever told you that i existed, he is a book. i had to kill that guy off to become this guy that you can respect and love.
tavis: it is very autobiographical. >> absolutely. tavis: you tried to process through losing two sons in a short time. was there -- i do not know what you would have done this but did you ever blame yourself? >> yes. tavis: you did? >> that is the first thing you do. you always feel like if i could have been there, i could have said something, i could have done something to make it turned out a little different. i could have been -- maybe i could have been a better role model that it would not have come to this. you always blame yourself and then after you get past that part, and say to yourself, that was -- there was nothing you hacould have done. this was something that was between -- this was one of those life processes. and it had to go down that way. after you get past that, then you want to preach to everybody.
the cat, thethe dog, neighbors. here comes the printer again, run. -- preacher again come around. you get to the place where you about me.urself and say what ie try to change those things and be a better person and better parent from this day on. you literally have to kill off that other guy and become a total another person. it is like a new birth. tavis: has losing ger -- how has losing gerald and sean may become a better father, grandfather? >> spending more time being there. more conversation. more staying in tune, to know what is going on with them in their lives.
tavis: all the stuff you could not do when you were doing the o'jays. on thes an o'jay, i was road. at least half a year. i was talking to someone about that and there were saying, how come men do not have that thing where they stay with the family and be part of the family and how can men just goff and leave their children and not be part of it? what we have to realize is that remember back in the slavery time, men, there would invade the man's home and take his daughter and take his wife. he would have to go off somewhere else and start off another whole family because they sold him to another slave owner. do you understand? we consequently, there is no way that we can have that thing that
we stay with something. i stay with this woman or that woman. i have been able to move out of situations and feel nothing about it because we have been put in the position already. they have been taking our families, our daughters, and kids and we have to move on and get a whole nother family. that has to take effect on people down through history. so consequently, men feel that way. consequently, we have a tendency to say we can walk away from it. tavis: it is one thing to be forced into that as they were during slavery. it is another thing to make a choice. part of this is negroes making choices to not be a man or fathers are responsible. >> i am saying that has a lot to do with the parent, mothering,
and nurturing, and not making kids responsible for what they are doing. you got to keep pointing the finger at them and say, you got to stand up and be a man. you can just keep running off. in a what i am saying? this starts with mothers and fathers. you have to say to them, you got to tell them to be a man and take responsibility now because now you have a job -- a child, you have a woman. you have to take care of these people and make sure that they're able to survive in this world. tavis: how are the grand kids doing? >> they are going to school. the bigger problem i am having now is with the baby mama, they want to blame me. tavis: [unintelligible]
why not you? >> i had nothing to do with that. tavis: you said it. you wrote the song, i am trying to fill in the gaps. what was the experience like being in the studio essentially by yourself? you have engineers and others. i noticed this is a solo project. no collaboration. you could have done that easily. >> the reason i wanted to do that, i wanted young kids to stand up and take notice that the 70-year-old man is doing some real music. and when you get a chance to listen to it, know that this is a 70-year-old man tried to show you all this is what real music is, this is what music is from the sold that people can relate
to. that is what is is raw, it was cut by live musicians, done in a studio, we all sat there and made it happen. tavis: did you feel lonely? >> no. i kind of liked it. [laughter] no, -- are watching.ays >> i will always be an o'jay. it is easy to go in the studio and you have to worry about one opinion. and i know you noknow. tavis: that is why it is not called the tavis and eddie show. maybe you weren't challenged.
-- it was was written on here. you have been with at least two other guys. >> it is a different process. strictly from the standpoint that you have to keep trying to be interesting. because to just be eddie levert throughout the whole song is not going to be interesting so you have to figure out ways to be more creative, a little bit more exciting. because when you are dealing with someone who has a great voice and you have to do the whole song, it becomes all the other task. you have to figure out ways to be interesting. tavis: i have always said that walt is one of the most underrated, underappreciated artists. >> absolutely. tavis: his voice.
incredible. >> and he just is lazy. he gonna get me. he going to make me pay for that. tavis: we -- how well the o'jays celebrate? o'jays it is 50 years. >> we're trying to do a new album, do some new music, and we want to do some kind of television special. something if we can get it where we can sit around and maybe have some tables and piano and do the songs just like that with just these piano and as singing. that would be a great evening. an evening with the o'jays, singing with the piano and doing
some harmony. >> someone from pbs will call. >> let's do it. tavis: on pbs. at any point in this 50-year journey, did you ever think about honestly pulling out? you said you always be an o'jay. have you always felt that way? >> you run into those moments where things are not really as cohesive as you would like for them to be and you say to yourself, maybe i need to move on. i am still the kind of person that i leave it up to the entity,, to god, that and he has not led me to the
door. tavis: i ask that in part because as much as i love walt, there is something in the ether about these lead singers. at some point they either get pushed for the jump. we do not have time to run the list of all the leads that broke out on their own to lionel to michael. you have been all those -- you have been there all those years. >> i do not know how far i can jump. i am 70. tavis: you could have jumped when you were 25 or 30. >> i still think that the o'jays is one of the greatest, greatest products of the black community.
do you understd what i'm saying? this has been something that has been one heck of a ride and i think that there has not been another group that has affected the world like the o'jays and the message they deliver. we still have a place and i think we still have one more great album in us that will change the world. tavis: part of what is amazing about the mighty, mighty o'jays, your reference to this earlier. you have written and performed and given the world songs that had great lyrical content but to your point, it is stuff that matters even still. as long as there is a world, there will be a need for songs like "love train." >> i think the o'jays have one
more new. we have been talking. it is something that they want to do and where are in -- we are in that mode, it will happen before the year is out. tavis: he is ready to go. he is jumping at the bid. >> it goes on and those songs, they still are there. unbelievable. that is the most unbelievable part that those songs and still relevant right now. what ever they are saying, the family reunion. tavis: when you hit "love train," it is the most beautiful thing and everyone in the audience, black, red, white,
yellow. >> they stand up and dance around the room. there would be on their walker's s. i am telling you. when we do our show, there is babies. teenagers, young people and you have people on their walkers and their breathing machines. unbelievable. here i am, 70 years old with a silver shirt on. tavis: when you get to the point when you are on a walker and a breathing machine -- it is time to go. i might be the sandman. that will not happen anytime soon. eddie levert, he's still go it.
his new project by the same title, "i still have it." i am sure we will get some way to get him and the crew. >> you got to go to eddiewlevert.com and you can get all that information. my wife will kill me if i did not say that. tavis: please do not kill me. love you. good to see you. that is our show for tonight. until next time, keep the faith. keep on riding, riding on through ♪ ♪ people all over the wo rld, ♪ >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley
at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with rin brockovich on the w ater crisis. that is next time. we will see you then. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to ke every day better. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. pbs.